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London Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012: Legacy

Volume 824: debated on Monday 10 October 2022


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government, further to the 10th anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, what additional steps they will take to stimulate the ongoing sporting, social, cultural and economic legacy from those Games.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and add that it is a privilege to ask the first Question in your Lordships’ House to His Majesty’s Government.

We have built on the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by hosting a number of major sporting events, including this year’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the UEFA Women’s Euros and the forthcoming integrated Rugby League World Cups. We have also seen a number of initiatives in grass-roots sport. We are very proud to have a world-leading sports sector, and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park attracts over 6 million visitors a year, creating thousands of jobs and homes.

My Lords, the Lionesses this summer and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games demonstrate the continuing sporting legacy from London 2012. Does my noble friend agree that there are also continuing economic, social and cultural benefits? In his new role—I welcome him to the Front Bench for DCMS—will he spearhead the initiative from his department to ensure that, for the next decade, we continue to reap all the benefits of that golden summer of sport in 2012?

I thank my noble friend for that warm welcome. Indeed, if noble Lords will allow me, I also thank the Labour Front Bench and others for welcoming me to my new post. I look forward to working constructively with noble Lords across the House. On my noble friend’s question, he is absolutely right that it is important not only that we continue to see the social, economic and cultural benefits of hosting these events but that we learn from these events. For example, from the things that we learned from London 2012, when it came to the Commonwealth Games, we asked whether we always need brand-new facilities or whether we could upgrade existing facilities that would definitely be used by the community in the future. There are a number of lessons that we learn from each of these events.

My Lords, is not one of the huge benefits of the circumstances in which the Olympic Games took place the fact that they were available on free-to-air television as one of the listed events? Does the Minister share my concern that, over the years, there has been a seemingly inextricable tendency for successful national sporting events to move from free-to-air television to subscription television? Does he think that—with, for example, no international cricket or international golf among the listed events—it is high time that the list was revised?

The noble Lord makes an important point, which a number of noble Lords have raised with me since I took on this position. While there are some events for which there is a lot of consensus that they should be free to air, there are others who say, “Maybe not that sport or this sport or this event.” It will require a lot of conversations to make sure that we have a list on which there is wide consensus.

My Lords, one of the hopes of the 2012 Olympics was that they would inspire a generation not just of athletes and participants but of volunteers. We saw a remarkable upsurge in volunteering during the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, the figures since have shown a dramatic decline and there seems to be some lack of co-ordination in galvanising the opportunity presented by occasions such as the Olympic Games. What role do the Government have in ensuring that these volunteer programmes are built and grown after such events, rather than being allowed to decline?

Volunteering did increase in the years after London 2012, halting what had been a long-term decline, and more than half of the 70,000 London 2012 Games makers continue to volunteer in their communities. One of the things I am very happy about, having moved departments, is that I am now the Minister for Civil Society, and one of the things I am talking about is how we encourage more volunteers and more local champions who want to set up a project in their local community. One of the ideas we are looking at is that you can put your postcode into a civil society portal, for example, and offer yourself as a volunteer or have your hand held while you set up a local community project.

My Lords, do the Government think they have got the priorities right? We seem to spend an awful lot of money on elite sports, but grass-roots sports seem to be neglected. Should we not put more money into the grass-roots rather than elite sports?

A variant of that is that we want to see elite sports themselves put money into grass-roots sport. We are working in partnership with Sport England, for example, and its 10-year strategy called Uniting the Movement. That reinforces a commitment to more participation in sport. Sport England has also invested an additional £20 million in the together fund, previously known as the tackling inequalities fund, to reach underrepresented groups in many communities. It is also investing money in multi-use grass-roots facilities between 2022 and 2025. The important thing is that this should not be just about elite sports but should reach right down to local communities.

My Lords, I had the great privilege of being the Olympics Minister in 2012, which surprised many people who knew me well, but it was fascinating. Part of the point was to get schools more engaged in sport. We all know that many state schools do very little sport. What are the Government doing to make sure that all schools have access to sports facilities?

This issue came up in the Health and Care Bill, funnily enough. I remember, when we were talking to noble Lords who raised this, that we raised the issue of the cross-government participation committee. That is now being reviewed, but what we are looking at now, given the learning, is what may need to be tweaked. There will be an updated strategy, but we want it to be cross-government, cross-department and co-ordinated to ensure that we encourage more participation, not only in schools but in out-of-school activities as well.

My Lords, while I welcome the initiatives the Government take to support sport, and support the Question from my noble friend, will the Minister comment on sponsorship? We are always welcoming financial involvement by organisations, commercial and otherwise, but there is concern that some of the sponsors in sport nowadays are putting forward messages that are not necessarily in line with a positive attitude in bringing on young people, in particular, in sports.

My noble friend raises a very important point. I am not sure of the exact details, so I will have to take that back to the department and write to him.

My Lords, the Birmingham Commonwealth Games may have ended only a couple of months ago, but has the department undertaken an initial assessment of them? If we are to build a lasting legacy from the Games we need to understand, as we did with the London 2012 Olympics, what worked and what did not. One of the big hopes of the Government was that external partnerships and sponsorships would drive forward regeneration of Birmingham. Perhaps the Minister can offer us an early insight into whether any of this is going to bear fruit.

The noble Lord is absolutely right. When we looked at the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games and subsequent sports events, we learned something from each sports event. One thing that was learned in time for Birmingham 2022 was that, rather than necessarily building completely new facilities, we could upgrade or use existing facilities. For example, there was no new velodrome built; we used the London velodrome for the Commonwealth Games. There was a new aqua sports centre built, and that will now be used by the community. In addition, the Secretary of State announced earlier this month that around £60 million of underspent money from the Birmingham 2022 budget will be invested in the local region for the cultural and social legacy.

My Lords, I was one of those who slightly teased the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about Birmingham being the host for the Commonwealth Games, but it was a triumph and a success for the region and showed what can be done with using both old facilities and new, as the Minister referred to. Does any part of the Minister’s department keep an eye on upcoming sporting festivals for which we can make bids, and for which local regional authorities can be encouraged to make bids, because they do have an impact for the region and the country?

Yes, when I was being briefed for this Question, one of our discussions was about whether the Government would think about bidding for future events—not just athletics or major games but others. For example, one of the things we learned from previous events such as the Rugby League World Cup was that we could have concurrent rugby league world cups—the men’s Rugby League World Cup, the Women’s Rugby League World Cup and the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup, around which they announced that they also organised a learning disabilities day. We want to learn as much as possible about whether it is always feasible to integrate these different tournaments rather than keeping them separate, and make sure that any buildings we use can be used by the local community afterwards so that it does not remain purely in the interests of elite sportspeople.

My Lords, to take the Minister back to the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, and extend it into his wider brief, is he aware that many arts organisations—particularly small local museums and galleries—are acutely dependent on volunteers? The shortage of volunteers is not just an inconvenience to them but an existential threat. Can he expand a little more on what he expects government policy to do to help that?

One of the things I was very reassured by when I came into the department was how seriously it takes volunteering and what it wants to do for it. As I said earlier, we are looking at different ideas around how we can encourage volunteers in their communities—maybe putting their postcodes somewhere and linking them to their local community foundation, which can then signpost them to volunteering opportunities—and at people who want to set up a project when they have seen a problem in their community and want their hands held to set it up. We are looking at the full range of volunteering, from helping existing projects to creating new ones.